Friday, August 10, 2018

Harris extends win streak with another rout in Aptos

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   APTOS, Calif. -- Liam Broady accomplished an impressive feat today.
   He kept Lloyd Harris on the court for more than an hour.
   Not much more, and Broady still lost, but he has plenty of company lately.
   In a matchup of unseeded players, Harris rolled past Broady 6-2, 6-2 in 64 minutes today to reach the semifinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger on a gorgeous, 64-degree (17.8 Celsuis) day at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Harris, a 21-year-old South African, dispatched third-seeded Quentin Halys of France 6-4, 6-2 in 59 minutes in the first round and Joris De Loore of Belgium 6-2, 6-0 in 52 minutes in the second round.
   "I'm happy to keep the matches short and keep my body fresh for every round to come," said Harris, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and only 176 pounds (80 kilograms).
   Harris, who won his first Challenger title last week in a $75,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky., extended his winning streak to eight matches. He has not lost more than four games in a set in any of them.
   "I've really just been focused on tennis and to keep on working and improving my game," Harris explained. "Every day I've just been practicing and trying to improve, and that's been the key for me."
   Harris soared 47 places to a career-high No. 161 with the Lexington title in Monday's updated rankings. That would have given him the fourth seed in Aptos, but the singles draw was held on Saturday based on last week's rankings.
   Harris had 10 aces and no double faults against Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander who reached last year's Aptos final as a qualifier. Harris won 83 percent of the points on his first serve (29 of 35) and 60 percent on his second delivery (6 of 10), and escaped both break points against him.
   "I felt I played tremendously well today," Harris crowed. "I came out of the starting blocks very (well) again and just kept that level up throughout the match. I felt I really served well, was defending well, attacking well, coming forward well -- all around a good performance."
   Harris turned pro three years ago out of high school.
   "I was never really interested in the college route," he said.
   In contrast, Harris' 32-year-old countryman, Kevin Anderson, starred at the University of Illinois for three seasons (2005-07). The 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson has reached two of the last four Grand Slam singles finals, losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's U.S. Open and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last month.
   "We touch base here and there and send texts back and forth," Harris said of Anderson. "When I'm in the bigger tournaments and I get to see him, we'll talk. I wouldn't say I know him very well."
   Asked whether Anderson has been a mentor to him, Harris said with a laugh: "It's hard to say. His results definitely have been a positive influence on me and the country."
   Harris will play 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Christopher Eubanks, who beat former top-70 player Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 7-6 (6) in a hard-hitting battle of unseeded 22-year-old Americans.
   As he did against second-seeded Michael Mmoh in the second round, Eubanks frustrated Escobedo with his booming serve. Eubanks had 10 aces and two double faults and did not face a break point. He won 75 percent of the points on his first serve (36 of 48) and a whopping 74 percent on his second delivery (14 of 19).
   "I think I served well at critical times," said the 236th-ranked Eubanks, who turned pro last fall after his junior year at Georgia Tech in his hometown of Atlanta. "I think I did a good job of keeping my composure when I was under pressure a little bit on my service games. Anytime you play a match and don't get broken, it's usually a pretty good day. I was very pleased with how I served and how I played overall."
   Eubanks and Harris will meet for the first time in Saturday's second semifinal at about 3 p.m.
   "Eubanks has a massive game and can play anyone off the court," Harris said. "It's going to be a really tough match, but I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great challenge for me."
   In the top half of the draw, Fabbiano, one of the smallest players in men's pro tennis at 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), won 6-2, 6-2 for the second consecutive match. This time, he outclassed U.S. wild card Martin Redlicki, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander, in one hour.
   "The key was the same as (Thursday against countryman Stefano Napolitano)," said Fabbiano, who's ranked No. 105 after reaching a career-high No. 70 last September. "Good return, put the ball in -- he's a good server -- then do my shots. It was not that difficult today, but I had to be focused from the first to last point."
   Redlicki, a two-time NCAA doubles champion who graduated from UCLA in June, said he was most impressed by Fabbiano's "rally ball -- his regular, normal ball has that much more bite, it's that much heavier -- his ability to open the court, and his first ball. I would hit what I felt were some pretty decent returns off his serve, and he would just be able to take it and hit a winner off the first ball, which is something I wasn't expecting off the return I was hitting. I guess that's the next level I'm working for.
   "It was a really good learning experience, a good eye-opener. Lots to build on, lots to work on, a lot to look forward to."
   Fabbiano, who stunned Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round at Wimbledon last month, will face either fourth-seeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia for the first time on Saturday not before 1 p.m. 
   Kokkinakis, who shocked Roger Federer in the second round in Miami in March, topped eighth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 after trailing by an early service break in the second set. Gunneswaran, a 28-year-old left-hander, double-faulted for the only break in the third set to trail 2-4.
   The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Kokkinakis, who's rebounding from multiple injuries, has plummeted from a career-high No. 69 three years ago at age 19 to No. 268. But Fabbiano predicted Kokkinakis eventually will reach the top 10.
   "He's solid, big serve," Fabbiano said. "He's doing the right things. He's still young, so he can get his body even better than now. He will be on top in the next few years, for sure. He's a next-generation guy."
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

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